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Old 07-15-2014, 08:58 PM
 
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I've been thinking about how cities expanded in the past versus how they expand in the present. In the past, cities grew from nothing and expanded by annexing farmland and constructing a continuous city grid. Nowadays, cities expand instead by annexing unincorporated suburban settlements and/or leaving new infrastructure development to private developers (who usually construct closed-off subdivisions connected to the rural road grid). It doesn't seem like cities really "grow" anymore, they just gain suburbs. The growth is quasi-independent from the town/city in question-it relies on that town for growth and economics, and yet still grows separate from the city itself as a private development rather than a fully infrastructurally integrated portion of the city.

Typing that thus led to this next, and more important train of thought. The question is, can suburbs be cities? Yes, they can be in the legal sense, they can incorporate and have their own services and schools and all that stuff. But can they be cities, in the sense that they are centralized (to some degree) concentrations of employment and residence, and serve as a economic, cultural, and possibly political center to a region of any particular size and population, with a "downtown" or otherwise central core area serving as a hub of activity?

I personally think that suburbs, or at least the modern car-centric suburb cannot be a city, simply because of its nature. First off, the car encourages decentralization, which is inherently against the nature of a city. Second, a city is a collection of people, and a community focused on cars instead of people cannot thrive as a true city, as a community of individuals, as it is not focused on those individuals (rather, it is focused on those individuals' transportation).

So what do you think? Can a suburb truly be a city? Can it turn into a city? Why or why not?

(Note: suburb for this post implies the modern postwar car-centric suburb. Streetcar suburbs do not qualify, as they usually have a centralized core of some sort. Also, "city" in this case means any kind of town, small and large, not just the big cities with metro areas of several million).
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Old 07-15-2014, 09:54 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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I assume trolley-bus suburbs (and early auto suburbs?) that have similar features to streetcar suburbs don't qualify either?

Ex:
https://www.google.ca/maps/place/Ave...ece1b1c0ec78c9

To answer your question though, I'm not sure, I don't think there's any place that's truly been successful. Maybe Buckhead is the closest? Certainly a lot of them are trying, like Surrey, Mississauga, Markham, Sandy Springs, Tysons Corners, but I'm not sure they're there yet. Mississauga has pockets of urbanity in its "downtown" but they're separated by the parking lot of the big mall and vacant lots.
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Old 07-16-2014, 12:06 AM
 
Location: Vallejo
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Yes. Most suburbs are cities.
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Old 07-16-2014, 05:42 AM
 
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Eh to me this goes back the argument about how the US counts population vs every other country on earth. Suburbs should exist as neighborhoods of the larger cities, instead of independent entities. They would not exist or have people commuting to and from them without the core municipality. Especially when you're talking about the suburbs of the western cities that are 300 sq miles, with 300k people in them. We should all go by the UN definition for counting city population which is consecutive tracks of urbanized land with 1000 people per sq mi. It would eliminate all of these cities that are top 100 which have sprouted over the last 50 years and have grown by default because of the region they are in. A full 3rd of the "top 100" cities in this country are just sunbelt suburbs. Also if the central cities governed the region you'd be far more apt to see responsible land uses and urban growth boundaries.
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Old 07-16-2014, 07:12 AM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
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Yes, to answer your question in two words, Virginia Beach. Basically it is a sprawling suburb city that is building it's own downtown in the middle of the city and has the highest population in the area.
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Old 07-16-2014, 07:35 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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You did add many caveats to the original post, but what you were really asking here was not "can suburbs be cities" (since of course many are - Mesa, Arizona has over 450,000 people!) but "can suburbs be urban."

The answer is of course yes. Most "urban suburbs" tend to be places which were built out prior to WW2. However, there is nothing stopping modern day TOD and new urbanism from making urban areas in the suburbs. Indeed, the DC area is actually doing a pretty good job turning formerly suburban areas near transit lines into something which approximates a walkable urban core. It looks kinda bland and sterile compared to historic architecture, but it's better than nothing.

If you want urbanization, you must build transit first basically, and then the denser built structure comes. This is exactly what happened historically - the areas where subways were first built tended to not be particularly dense, but everything surrounding them tended to pretty quickly fill in over time. So I suppose this means you could urbanize segments of the suburbs (mostly formerly commercial/industrial areas where no one is around to complain and you only need to buy out a few property owners), but the bulk of it due to the way that development spread out everywhere will not change its fundamental form.
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Old 07-16-2014, 07:45 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by urbanlife78 View Post
Yes, to answer your question in two words, Virginia Beach. Basically it is a sprawling suburb city that is building it's own downtown in the middle of the city and has the highest population in the area.
Virginia Beach has the highest population in Hampton Roads because it is the biggest municipality. Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Hampton all have higher population densities. Although Norfolk as a whole has a lower population density than Portsmouth and Hampton, it's clear if you look at density maps by census tracts that residential Norfolk is by far the largest contiguous grouping of reasonably dense (e.g., more than 5,000 per square mile) neighborhoods in the region.
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Old 07-16-2014, 08:01 AM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
Virginia Beach has the highest population in Hampton Roads because it is the biggest municipality. Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Hampton all have higher population densities. Although Norfolk as a whole has a lower population density than Portsmouth and Hampton, it's clear if you look at density maps by census tracts that residential Norfolk is by far the largest contiguous grouping of reasonably dense (e.g., more than 5,000 per square mile) neighborhoods in the region.
Technically Suffolk is the biggest municipality.

Yes, there may be other cities in that region that is more dense, it doesn't change the fact that it is a suburb that has turned into its own city and has built it's own downtown.
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Old 07-16-2014, 08:35 AM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mjlo View Post
Eh to me this goes back the argument about how the US counts population vs every other country on earth. Suburbs should exist as neighborhoods of the larger cities, instead of independent entities.
Unlike Paris, France where 2.2 million live in the city proper with a regional metro population of 10-12 million. The rest live in the surrounding smaller municipalities? I could make a long list of similar situations, but I don't see a point.
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Old 07-16-2014, 08:44 AM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

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Location: Long Island / NYC
45,988 posts, read 41,959,650 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by memph View Post

To answer your question though, I'm not sure, I don't think there's any place that's truly been successful. Maybe Buckhead is the closest? Certainly a lot of them are trying, like Surrey, Mississauga, Markham, Sandy Springs, Tysons Corners, but I'm not sure they're there yet. Mississauga has pockets of urbanity in its "downtown" but they're separated by the parking lot of the big mall and vacant lots.
Take Bellevue, Washington:

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Be...cf5482ead00765

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Be...cf5482ead00765

It has an obvious downtown, and appears to be walkable. No one would mistake it for downtown Seattle, and the surrounding residential outside downtown isn't dense at all, though it looks there are some big apartment buildings in downtown Bellevue. If Bellevue were somehow by itself it would to be a city with a clear center, just a rather low density one. It also looks like it has decent infill opportunities. The layout of the downtown area might be prewar, but the downtown isn't in 1940 Bellevue had barely over 1000 people.

New Westminster, BC appears to have a downtown (though more shopping and residential concentration rather than lots of office) and is rather new.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Ne...a8e918f64dfeee
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